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The Importance of Inhibition in Education

“No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness. If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind. ~Kahlil Gibran

I have been teaching violin to a wide variety of students for three years now and I have found true, what many teachers before me have, that a student only absorbs what they are ready to learn. In many instances the persistence of the teacher to get a student to understand something can often lead to confusion and frustration, blocking the students learning.

Despite this realization I often catch myself trying to get a student to “understand.” I will insist on repeating myself or asking if they comprehend what I’m saying, even when can clearly see that they do not. I find myself most likely to get into this kind of end-gaining when I am trying to explain something abstract and detailed to the student.

In one particular instance, I was working with a student’s bow arm coordination.

We had already been over this topic many times, and tried various approaches. But this time instead of beginning by manipulating her hand and explaining it a million different ways I stopped, took a breath, and started working with her primary control and allowed her to experiment with her bow arm. Then suddenly the student stopped, looked at me and said “oh my wrist needs to be up”……………………………………………………………………..

I had told the student this particular detail so many times previously I had lost count. I laughed and said “yes!” After the student left I realized that she didn’t suddenly hear me, instead what I concluded was that there was a strong possibility that all the times we talked about her wrist she may not have been ready to hear the information. So what I needed to do as her teacher was to trust in her personal development and inhibit my own desire to help her understand. If anything, my own end-gaining could have been confusing her on the issue and blocking her advancement.

Since this experience I have used inhibition to deal with many different situations while teaching such as: a student being non-cooperative, having difficulty focusing, or struggling with the acquisition of a skill. In each of these circumstances the space that inhibition allows gives both me and the student time to think and process. The benefits I receive from this include: mitigating frustration, impatience, and the ability to construct in “real-time” examples that may be more appropriate for the student. The benefits I believe the student receives are the advantage of a more patient teacher, a more conscious learning experience, and exposure to the concept of inhibition.

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